140 years ago, Brenda McQueen’s great, great, great grandfather George McDougall established the first permanent Protestant church built in southern Alberta. The church, located just east of Morley on Highway 1A was destroyed by fire on May 22nd, 2017. As Brenda recalls, “I spent the whole day crying when I learned of the devastating fire.” Today, during our worship service, we are privileged to have Brenda with us to bring us up to date on what is currently happening at the site.
Brenda is the President of the McDougall Stoney Mission Society that seeks to hold sacred the treasured artifacts and history of those early days of settlement in this part of the world. It is not an easy task. While one can applaud the intent of George McDougall to make the lives of First Nation’s peoples better, there has followed, in Canada, a long history that includes residential schools, systemic racism and injustice toward indigenous people. Where and how do we begin to repair the torn relationship between the settlers who came and the people who have occupied this land for thousands of years?
Brenda is working hard, every day, to live in reconciliation and in right relations with the Stoney-Nakoda people. Decisions for the Church site are made in consultation with them. Sacred ceremonies are held at the site. And there is constant dialogue to find common ground for moving forward in a spirit of truth and reconciliation.
All of this is so very important because our God is a reconciling God, the one who created the beautiful diversity of this world and who instructs us to reconcile and make new. To a large degree, that was what the ministry of Jesus was all about. He was born into a world that was riven by dissent. The religious authorities of his day insisted that Jewish people keep themselves separate from the Romans or anyone else who was not Jewish. It was, in fact, a sin to sit and break bread with unclean Gentiles.
But Jesus turned all of that upside down, even as he overturned the tables in the Temple in Jerusalem. He knew that hatred for someone different and living separate lives was not the way of God. It was God, in fact, who created diversity in our human family and it was God who blessed that diversity.
In our stumbling efforts to be in right relation with our Indigenous sisters and brothers, we ask God to walk with us, reminding us that all of God’s created order is a gift, providing us with the opportunity to always reconcile and make new.